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Biden Urges Medvedev to Expand Economic Ties After Arms Pact

U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that both countries should expand ties on the “economic front” after clinching a new arms reduction pact.

The U.S. would like to help develop a high-technology center outside Moscow, a project championed by Medvedev, Biden said today during a meeting with the Russian leader at his residence outside Moscow.

President Barack Obama sent his deputy to Moscow to show he wants “to continue the progress we made, this time on the economic front,” Biden said. The vice president said earlier today during a visit to the Skolkovo innovation hub that the U.S. “strongly supports” Russia’s 17-year bid to join the World Trade Organization.

“Your vision of Russia, of innovation and change and modernization -- we’d very much like to be a part of that,” Biden said. “We have made great progress in the last two years.”

Biden’s visit to meet with Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin follows advances in the U.S. administration’s plan to “reset” ties with Russia, which Biden announced at the Munich Security Conference in February 2009.

Obama and Medvedev last year brokered the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The accord, which came into force last month, was approved in the U.S. over skepticism from some Republican lawmakers after lobbying by the White House.

Medvedev said Russia’s absence from the WTO was impeding economic progress between the two countries.

“Our economic ties are significantly lagging behind our political ones,” he said. “In that sense, Russia’s absence from the WTO is interfering, and I hope that this year this process will be completed with the active support of the U.S.”

Washington’s high expectations for Russia, compared with China or India, are not a result of lingering Cold War sentiments, Biden said.

“Maybe sometimes we do expect too much progress too quickly,” Biden said. “But the expectation is born out of admiration and respect, not out of disrespect.”

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